Consumers are more in control of their relationships with brands than they’ve ever been. Not only can they dictate how, when and where they communicate with companies, they also have a considerable amount of influence over the public perceptions of those businesses. How consumers talk about the companies they deal with has become as, or, arguably, even more important, than how the brands speak about themselves
That means that online reputation is a crucial consideration for any business that operates online. Research is now a core part of the consumer journey, and before making purchase decisions customers require a sophisticated level of social proof. As a result, they are soliciting user-generated content and reviews to round out the story they are telling with the content they produce themselves.
Such third party endorsements may come from multiple sources but the two most trusted are recommendations from family or friends (92 per cent) and consumer reviews (70 per cent). The first of these is out of brands’ control, but the second is a different story.
Online reviews can initially help build reputation by spreading the word about the business. That’s why they’re such a crucial consideration for businesses at the early stages of their existence. When starting out, you need to convince as many people as possible to use your service rather than a competitor they’d probably be more familiar with. By using online reviews to provide endorsement, you’ll help consumers to round out the story they’re telling themselves about you, and help them to reach a decision.
For new businesses that have made the decision to start building their online reputation, the initial step is to start collecting reviews. The best way to do this is to invite customers to leave a review via email, particularly immediately after they’ve made a purchase, or just after delivery has been made. Some invitations will work better than others, and it’s best to establish a template, then use A/B testing to tweak the invitation based on what’s working. Also, if people don’t react immediately to the email invitation, try sending them a reminder.
Our customers who use invitation reminders have seen a 35 per cent hit rate of recipients subsequently leaving reviews.
If you have great customer service, you’ll hopefully start getting lots of good reviews, but it’s important to remember that you’re going to get negative ones too. While it can be difficult to read bad reviews about your business, they can actually be incredibly useful. For one thing, people like to see that the brands they deal with make mistakes occasionally. It humanises the brand. What really counts is how the brand deals with it when something does go wrong. In our recent research, we found that most of us (55 per cent) will accept a simple apology when something goes wrong, and 46 per cent of us will forgive a business just shows that it cares enough to try and resolve the issue.
That said, while it’s best to prepare for some bad reviews, you’re not only going to get angry customers leaving feedback. We’ve found that 83 per cent of online reviews are positive, and every single one provides a valuable boost not only for your online reputation, but on sales as well.In fact, recent research from Practical Ecommerce has found that a single positive review can help increase conversions by 10 per cent.
But really what reviews are there for is to help build your online reputation, and to provide a reassuring endorsement for customers at the key moment of purchase. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, a brand’s reputation is in the hands of what people say about it, but that doesn’t mean it’s beyond their control. If the company provides a quality service, it has nothing to fear from feedback, and even if it does get a few negative reviews mixed in with the positive, it can feel reassured that it will only help customers to trust its service more.